Legal Fight Over McFlurry Machines Is Heating Up

'Right to repair' movement scores a win
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2021 2:11 PM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2021 5:05 PM CDT
Legal Fight Over McFlurry Machines Is Heating Up
Broken McFlurry machines are a common complaint at McDonald's restaurants.   (Wikimedia Commons/Linda Avriani)

A company that helps McDonald's franchise owners fix their McFlurry machines themselves has won a court victory that is being hailed as a win for the wider right-to-repair movement. As Wired detailed in a story earlier this year, Jeremy O'Sullivan and Melissa Nelson created a small Wi-Fi-connected device called the Kytch that helps owners diagnose and deal with problems with the $18,000 ice cream machines, which are notoriously finicky and prone to breaking down. O'Sullivan and Nelson said manufacturer Taylor—which also has a monopoly on repair services—had warned franchisees against using Kytch but was also secretly trying to reverse-engineer its own version. A judge has now issued a restraining order banning Taylor from copying information from the devices, Motherboard reports. The company was ordered to hand over any Kytch devices in its possession.

Taylor execs admitted seeking a Kytch device to assess whether it could cause problems with McFlurry machines but denied trying to obtain "trade secret information." Brianna Provenzano at Gizmodo describes Taylor as a "particularly egregious" example of the kind of business model right-to-repair advocates want to stamp out: "Sell businesses a persnickety machine that’s likely to break down, prevent them from understanding exactly where the malfunction is occurring, and then help yourself to a healthy cut of the distributors’ profit from the resultant repair." Kytch's creators say their business was devastated after Taylor claimed the devices were dangerous. "These guys did a really effective job at frightening off all of our customers and investors so we're hoping the public will support our case," O'Sullivan tells Motherboard. (Read more McFlurry stories.)

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